So, the book says that it takes one day per hour of time change to adjust to a new time zone, ie: since we are ten hours ahead of LA it should take ten days to adjust. This book– unlike the blackjack book that has allowed me to lose the equivalent of a Nissan Pathfinder in gambling over the years– is exactly right. Finally, with only four days left to go, my family is fully adjusted to life here. We have gotten ourselves into a nice routine: up at 8, I panic that they won’t have the eggs I like, Caleb runs around in circles whooping, Sasha says that it’s too early, I open the blinds, Sasha screams, I do Burpees in my underwear in front of the open window, Caleb goes to do Burpees in front of me, I yell at Caleb, Sasha yells to be quiet, Shawni wonders why her life is this way, we overpack for our day, head to breakfast where the kids say they’re not hungry, Shawni and I have our coffee and feel better, the kids eat sugar that is bound together by some sort of paste, I scream that we’re going to be late, we all hurry downstairs and wait for our guide who tells us to take our time and relax. It’s basically the same routine as home and it feels comfortable.
Since tomorrow is a holiday for us, today is the last day we have to tour in the North. We hired our Assassin guide from the other day to take us around to all the things we haven’t yet done: see ancient cities carved into caves, visit the graves of holy people, hike through a mountainous valley to arrive at a waterfall where we all jump in to cool off and time permitting, tour a winery. Or… go to a park and ride a four person bike slowly around a loop and go bird watching. Since the kids didn’t seem particularly interested in either of those things, I made the wise choice of doing the latter, knowing that there was more of a chance that they would like it, and once again, I was right. Okay, fine, I’m 1 for 50 at being right, but still, it felt good. Making my daughter the co-pilot on our four person bike and giving her the binoculars to spot birds was another stroke of genius. Since she wasn’t tired, she became herself again– the girl I not only love but also like. I don’t think parents admit that there’s a difference, at least not publicly.
On our little bike tour my wife pointed out that our family reached a milestone: our kids were finally at the age where we didn’t have to stop to see cows. Now, the Golan Heights is lousy with cows– seriously, it’s like India here, with more open spaces and less, well, Indians. And just a year or two ago we’d have to stop every time we saw a cow, which here would take up all of our vacation, but at a certain age, you realize that cows just aren’t that interesting. It should be a bittersweet moment for us, but we were relieved. The kids and Shawni and I got bored with the bike ride at the exact halfway point on the trail, so we high-tailed it (7 mph) back, cutting around the tourists who were unlucky enough to have bovinephilic children on board, and then rewarded ourselves with our 1,000th ice cream stop of our trip.
From there we went to lunch– it was the first non-Burpee exercise any of us had gotten in ten days, despite eating like I was training for a marathon. It was at lunch where I decided that I wanted to hike to a waterfall before the end of the day. My daughter decided she wanted to go home. The compromise was… no hike to a waterfall. Shawni and I decided that on our next trip we would get a babysitter to stay with the kids at the pool while we did the cool stuff. I did put my foot down and say that I wanted to SEE a waterfall, dammit, and on the way there our guide took us to the top of a mountain to go to a wind farm. We stood under giant wind turbines while looking out over snow-capped mountains with Syria to the right and Lebanon to the left. For no particular reason I was wondering this morning if I’d rather have the nicest house in a bad neighborhood or the worst house in a good neighborhood. Israel has the nicest house in a bad neighborhood. As I looked out past the barbed wire and “Danger Mines” signs, Shawni asked what I was thinking. I told her that I was taking it all in: if we were to move here and I were to join the army, this could be my turf. I have little doubt that the rioting in Syria was interrupted for a couple of minutes as the people wondered what that laughing sound was that was echoing down from the top of our mountain.
The truth is, I was only half-kidding, and three-quarters insulted. Not about moving here, but about being able to be a soldier, or cowboy-farmer for that matter. Our Assassin guide took us past the mountain where the IDF special forces train and when he said he could tell me what they do there but would have to kill me he wasn’t kidding. He did say that they have a version of special forces training for tourists to spend a couple of weeks here learning survival, shooting and basically getting the crap kicked out of you. I told him I’d consider it, and as an after-thought asked how old you had to be. He said some of the people are old. Up to 45. I told him I’m up to (and including) 45 and I truly believe I could do it. We then stopped off at an abandoned Syrian tank where I pulled my groin muscle trying to get in, leading me to believe that I may have to stretch before joining the Special Forces.
Our day ended with me finally getting my way: on the way home, we drove up to a waterfall, the size of which can only be seen in the park where I hike my dogs in Los Angeles. But it didn’t matter: I didn’t get my ruins, I didn’t get my holy graves, I wanted my damn waterfall. So I pulled my family out of the car, and limped over to the rail and had our Assassin take a picture of us. He said you couldn’t see the fall, but it didn’t matter. I know it was there.
As we drove back through the beautiful countryside, passing wild horses– which the kids were also bored of at this point– the Assassin said he might be coming to LA soon. Here, we are completely reliant on him for everything: my Hebrew is limited to Shalom and the phrase for “It’s all good” which I have misused every time I’ve attempted it. But in LA, that’s my world. He asked us what there was to do in LA and my wife and I paused, looked around, before finally landing on Universal Studios. He looked blankly at me. I told him I could get him in to see a sitcom taping, too. That’s exciting for a lot of people. He smiled politely, probably searching with his free hand for his weapon to kill us all. If he didn’t, I wanted to: it was the first time I was really embarrassed about where I live. I love LA: the weather, having a backyard, having a beach I could theoretically go to more than once a year and mountains I could do the same to, but when you look around a land of kings and prophets and cows and wild horses, you feel like you’re missing something.
But I’ll be home in four days. And the book says ten days later, I’ll be back to my routine as a sitcom writer, waiting for his next job, nursing a strained groin muscle.